Heather Wolf’s “Birding at the Bridge” Shows Variety of Birds at Brooklyn Bridge Park Year ‘Round

If you walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park, you’re likely to see–in addition to the pigeons, robins, mockingbirds, mourning doves, starlings, and several kinds of sparrows ubiquitous in our neighborhood–several varieties of seabirds. These include herring and laughing gulls, terns, and the double crested cormorants that often perch on the exposed pilings south of Pier One or can be seen flying by, occasionally diving for fish. You’ll also see Canada geese and brants, and American black and mallard ducks. On the landward side of Pier 1 you may encounter a catbird or two. I have spotted a few other species from time to time, including a cardinal and an oddly marked duck called a bufflehead that I at first mistook for a gull.

Not bad for a newbie to the birding world, but it seems I’ve barely made a dent in the variety of species to be found in the Park. Heather Wolf, who has been birding in Brooklyn Bridge Park since 2012, and photographing birds there almost as long, has seen and photographed more than 150 kinds of birds there. She has collected these photos in Birding at the Bridge, subtitled “In Search of Every Bird on the Brooklyn Waterfront”. The photos alone make the book worthwhile, but along with each is a generous amount of explanatory text, a separate section on young birds that includes a photo of a robin with nestlings similar, but better, than one I was able to get last spring, and handy tips on getting started in birding and on photographing birds (if I’m going to get serious about this, I’ll need to spring for a camera with a big lens).

With the fall migration season pretty much if not entirely over, and winter approaching, this may not seem an opportune time to start birding. The “Winter” section of Wolf’s book includes photos of only twelve species. These include the common rock pigeon, the white-throated sparrow, and the brant, but also the downy woodpecker and the winter wren. There is also a wide variety of ducks, including the aforementioned bufflehead, the gadwall, the red-breasted merganser, the canvasback, and the northern shoveler. Ms. Wolf has spotted and photographed a red throated loon, which she notes only appears here on the coldest winter days, and a rarely seen red-necked grebe, which she found because of a Twitter alert.

Hence, it could prove rewarding to put on your winter duds and head for the Park with a camera. If winter walks aren’t your thing, spring will come soon after, bringing a multitude of species, including the familiar robins, house sparrows, mockingbirds, and Canada geese, but also colorful cardinals, finches, warblers, and Baltimore orioles (not the kind that Yankees fans hate). Fall brings another wide variety, some of which may still be seen this year.

Ms. Wolf’s philosophy is stated in the foreword to her book, by David Lindo of The Urban Birder, who describes it thus: “Urban areas are filled with natural wonder and are worthy places to explore, watch, and study.” You may keep up with Ms. Wolf’s continuing birding adventures by subscribing to her free newsletter, for which you can sign up here.

Birding at the Bridge is published by The Experiment. It is available at most local bookstores.

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  • Brixtony

    A red tailed hawk got a sparrow in Whitman Park this morning and the dogs never noticed.